Wednesday was fantastic! Paul wanted to do an ultra-ride, so he woke me up at 1:30am. At WHAT?!!!! Hey, 0-dark-hundred is fine but 1:30am is way before 0-dark!! He was apologetic, but I said, "So what? Let's do this!"
I dropped Paul off near the Furnace Creek Inn and then I headed north to Stovepipe Well (the well, not the town) to get some beauty sleep. At twilight, I drove down to the well and started hiking west to the biggest dune I could see. The well is called stovepipe because when the wind shifted the sands and covered the well, someone started the tradition of sticking a section of stovepipe on the pump to mark the buried location. When I arrived, the sands weren't around it. Wagon tracks from 100 years ago and more were barely visible, leading out of the clefts in the hills to the east. As I travelled away from my vehicle, force of habit, I kept looking backwards to pick landmarks so that the return would be easier. The forecast was for rain, but so far there was only clouds. The clouds did reduce the quality of the sunrise, but I still had a nice show to watch. The ground went to an interesting crusty dirt, then I was into sparse little dunes. Then I was into the Mesquite Flats area.
The dunes were about 20 feet high and perforated with holes from either big lizards or roadrunners - not sure which. If you saw a hole in one side, there was always an additional hole somewhere else. Something evolved with sidewinders crawling in and wanted a back door. The big dunes had black grains on them. I took the magnet from my hydration valve and waved it over. It easily grabbed-up the particles. So there's lots of iron sand out there. I climbed the highest dune and then headed back a slightly different line towards my landmark. I never saw any creature other than an occasional bird. A Cessna dropping down to land at the town of Stovepipe Wells circled around me, but nothing else stirred. Finally, it began to sprinkle. Aw! Just a little moisture brings out all the scents of the desert. It was fantastic. Rain in the driest place in North America.
When I got back to my car, I drove on north towards Ubehebe Crater. It was raining with a bit of gusto then. Paul had ridden south to Badwater that morning and then turned around and headed north and had already passed me. I passed him again. At the intersection to Scotty's Castle, I saw a very disturbing sight. A coyote was loitering on the pavement not far away. The expression on its face was sad, like it had no pride, no wildness. I wondered if it was sick and about to die, but no, it had been fed by tourists its whole life and was living in a limbo - neither wild nor tame and dependent on hand-outs. Shame on everyone who feeds these animals! On to Ubehebe, the landscape became a barren series of black hills covered with pumice and cinders. Nothing grows out there. I ran down and back up in the rain. That's why I don't have photos, but I found someon theInternet. Paul was getting extremely fatigued but didn't want to give up. I ended up driving to certain junctions on his return ride to Furnace Creek, playing roving aid-station. That evening, I was allowed to eat pizza at the Adventure Corps post-clinic party at the Furnace Creek Inn. We went outside to watch the lunar eclipse begin while drinking beer. After the party, up on our ridge with the sleeping bags laid out on the ground, and watching the eclipse fade away, Paul commented how strange it is that some people paid $128 a night to have a ceiling block the view.
Tuesday was kind of trashed - as far as training goes. Somehow I mis-managed my schedule for the day (not that I was doing any intense planning). On the one-hand, I wanted to run over 10 miles. On the other, I wanted to see more than I could ride or run to. I started by crawling into three abandoned borax mines, but that only kept me entertained for 30 minutes. I had planned on running up to several other abandoned mines and a ghost town, but I ran into "No Tresspassing" signs and the ghost town wasn't - it was a thriving modern mining camp with a constant procession of big trucks hauling ore out. So that trashed "Plan A". Paul's group was biking up to Dante's View, not far away. If you go to Death Valley, this is not an optional place to visit! The views are astounding. The lack of vegetation makes it more so. While trees are usually nice, they block so much of your view. From the peaks in Death Valley, you can see EVERYTHING for SOOOO FAR!!!! Paul was one of the few in the group to bike the entire climb (15% grade). Some of the lesser athletes were still very impressive in that they refused to quit - they walked thier bikes all the way to the summit. In a way, I think that was more impressive than some of the physically stronger athletes. Paul headed back before me. One guy broke his rear gear cassette, locking-up his free-wheel. I helped hack the broken pieces out so that he could ride back to Furnace Creek. Late afternoon, Paul and Richard (one of the riders), drove out to the ghost town of Rhyolite. It was a worthwhile excursion, but again it cut into any ability to get some running in. Couldn't resist... We're 1000 miles from home but here we are at Golden, Colorado. or rather, the intersection of Golden and Colorado streets in Rhyolite, Nevada.
We rolled out of bed each morning before the sun had risen. Breakfast consisted of canned soup (Paul) and Safeway Nutrition Drink and trailbars (Me). Even though the daytime weather changed throughout the week, the nights were fairly stable 43-48 degrees and 2-7mph breeze.
We met Paul's biking group and they headed out. I grabbed coffee from the General Store every morning before heading out. The WiFi was pitiful. Often people could "connect" but try loading a page and it would fail. People from all over the world got to greet each other asking for assistance. Half the tourists were Japanese. The other half were from any and all other places on Earth. In Japan, there are SO many people packed together. Open-space is small. So to come to America and look out across many miles of terrain with hardly a soul is amazing to them. It's still amazing to me too.
I ran this day. It didn't matter which Dirty-Girl gaitors I chose - they were all appropriate: Skulls. Out on the highway, a car stopped. I thought they were going to ask for directions but it was a British couple asking what I was training for. I just said I run and race - everything is training - even races are training for more races. Maybe they hoped they were meeting one of the Badwater runners. I dream that some day... I'll NEVER RUN THAT ONE!! I started at Badwater and ran out onto the flats. A sign sits hundreds of feet up on the cliffs marking "Sea Level". I ran up the Natural Bridge gorge. There's a few places where you have to scurry up polished headwalls. Very cool, but probably a very scary place to be in the rain. Then I checked out the Devil's Golf course.
There was lots of wickedly sculpted salt. In photos, it looks like crumbly stuff, but let me assure you this stuff is very dangerous. It's extremely strong and crystaline. If you fall, it will take off CHUNKS of flesh! Next, I went to Golden Canyon and ran to Zabriske Point and back. Along the way, I explored just about every side-canyon I found. I loved squirreling my way back into lonely places where the only sounds were the silence and there was no sign of another foot print. The sediments were mostly clays, but pumice and cinders could be found anywhere in Death Valley. The region is so inundated with volcanic activity that there's no place you can go where volcanic explosions haven't hurled debris. Lunch was usually Muscle Milk, a trailbar, pumpkin seeds, and an apple. Lastly, I drove to the Hole In The Wall and ran several more miles. This ridge formation looks like rusty Swiss cheese that's melting. It looked like it should have hundreds of birds or bats living in it, but there was no sign of life. There were tons of barrel cactus growing in clusters, and some cholla, and prickly pear. In Texas, mesquite was the bane of the land. Ranchers frequently burned it off. But I don't remember ever seeing creosote, joshua trees, ephedra "Mormon Tea", or desert holly.
At the end of the day, I had only logged 13.6 miles, but it felt like more. I was very tired and delayed-onset mauscle soreness from the 54K race a couple of days before was putting a hurt on my quads. But it was nothing a good nights sleep up on the ridge couldn't fix.
Our first day in Death Valley, Sunday, began before the sun came up. After two blissful hours of sleep under the stars, we headed into the Park. Unlike nearly every other National Park, Death Valley is very loose. Because the valley blocks too much of the region, they decided not to close it to general traffic. This makes enforcement of park use impossible. You can drive through without a park pass. Because National Park budgets were cut, you probably won't see any rangers patrolling for violators. Paul G had signed up for a bike clinic. Along with that came a free 7-day vehicle pass. Paul wanted to sleep in the campground across from Furnace Creek, but instead he found that you have to make reservations many months in advance. We found a place just out of the park that was legal, even though we could have gotten away with bootlegging a camp in a canyon. From our camp, we had a much better view than any place we could have paid for. If I ever get my butt back to DV, I hope to stay the same place. Camping would have cost us $18/night. Without that cost, our trip cost even less. Gas in Furnace Creek was $4.01/gal. Ouch. I ended up buying $25 worth. The pump claimed I bought 5.25 gallons, but my fuel gauge only registered 3-4 gallons.
Sunday was spent biking. Paul's group biked 84 miles. I mountain biked 26 miles.
I won't say I'll NEVER buy a road bike, but here's my philosophy... Road biking on highways with very little or no shoulder is nothing short of Russian Roulette. You can argue until you're blue in the face about the way things "ought to be" and about "laws" and "rights", but there's only one law I care about: the Law of Physics. I've seen a crushed skull (inside a crushed helmet no less). I've been at the scene of one motorcycle accident and two bicycle accidents. The bicyclists always get CREAMED! Even with safety equipment. It happens so extremely often reporters don't even bother reporting it much anymore unless someone famous is involved. So I don't think people realize how frequently this happens. To each their own. My "own" is to ride a mountain bike and every time I hear a car - from either direction - I ride off into the dirt and rocks. If I'm hit there, the driver was crashing anyways.
I rode to Artists Point. That has two killer climbs. I spent a lot of time in my lowest gears. The temps were in the 80's, especially hot in the wind-protected areas. The scenery was very interesting. I got to see things I've never seen before. Plants, landscapes, rocks. Salt was everywhere. What I couldn't figure out was what types of salts I was looking at. There was often salt in the dirt on hillsides - not even down on the valley floor - and the pockets of salt were not crystalline. It was as fine as talcum powder. How can surface salt deposits which have contact with humidity and rain be so powdery fine? I had a bad habit of tasting everything that was white. I kept spitting it out - there's lead in some parts of the Valley. Near our camp at 4000 feet, I found some very ancient salt canted at an angle. So even long before the Valley was created, there were other valleys and salt deposits which are now lifted high into the sky and eroded away and sometimes obliterated by volcanic activities.
At the end of my first day, I found a Beck's Dark in the General Store. AHHH!!! Who woulda thunk they'd have such a great beer in Furnace Creek? Paul came in soon after and we headed off to view the sunset at Zabriske Point.
This formation reminds me of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup.
I'm back!!! It was a very awesome vacation. As Paul G. puts it: It exceeded expectations.
We were gone eight days, drove 2573 miles, and spent less than $500 total (both of us combined for all expenses, personal, race registrations, gas, food, etc.). The weather was a mixed-bag, but considering everything, we lucked-out very much with that too. I'll work my way through the week one post at a time.
First was the Moab Red Hot 50K+ (33.5 miles)...
The Twilight Zone above the startline
Paul G and I left Friday afternoon and slept on the slickrock near the starting line. Two days before, I gave blood, so I was lacking oxygen-carrying red blood cells. I performed as expected - I gasped for breath on the uphills (walking!) as if born, lived, and trained at sea-level - but on the downhills, where technique counts for everything, I was full-speed. Still, I'd hoped to prove I was Superman and do the impossible. I wanted to finish in the top 20%. That was SILLY! I even barely missed the top 50%! 80th place out of 155 finishers and a half-dozen DNFs. Still, comparing myself to otheres my age, and comparing my pace to other similar races, and considering the lack of red blood cells, I'm quite satisfied how I did. I had a total blast! There were a few sections where the scenery was absolutely breath-taking. Dark blue skies, red buttes, white snow, green trees, tan sand, tan, brown, gray, red, black rocks,... The cliffs, the gorges, the arroyos, the mountains,... I love this area - and I still haven't set foot into Arches National Park! I highly recommend this race! A couple of the aid stations were extremely difficult to get to. They had highly-modified Jeeps - stock bodies were gone and replaced by cages. These were some radical machines. All aid stations were well stocked with goodies, but mostly I was moving too fast, even at my slower speed, to take advantage of most of the loot. The sport-drink was mixed fairly consistently at full strength, so I didn't need any gels or anything else but a couple of pieces of banana. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for the post-race party, which I'm certain was probably the best. Paul and I had to get to Death Valley as soon as possible.
We hit the road and drove through the night, arriving at Death Valley Junction at 2am. Just beyond that, we stopped for two hours of sleep - which should have been three but we both forgot we gained an hour by passing to a new time-zone.
My mom's parents immigrated from Czechoslovakia. My mom was born in Chickasha, Okla. and is 100% Czech. Her parents were farmers and worked hard from 0-dark hundred until dinner. They burned lots of calories but ate lots of greasy foods, eggs, and bread. I guess that didn't matter much when they were still working the farm. After they handed the work over to the seven children, they pretty much only putz'd around the house. They lived happily as they grew fatter and fatter, developed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary "Disease" and died in their 70's. My father's father was half Irish and half German. During WWII he wasn't sure who's side he was on, but worked loyally at Tinker Air Force base during the war. He smoked cigars. He developed cancer, which started in his larynx, crawled into his lungs, and eventually throughout his whole body. They didn't have such things as chemo or other therapies, so it just ate him away the old-fashioned way. He drank to deal with the pain. He died in his late 50's. His mom was of mixed European stock. She was a volunteer nurse and one of the charter health-food nuts. She obsessed over nutrition. Although she ignored exercise, she got plenty of low-key exercise tending her large garden. She tried to grow as much of her own food as possible. She bought very little food. She loved animals, but rabbits would eat her vegetables and squirrels were mean to her favorite animals: birds. So she would call in the assassin - Me. Have gun, will travel. My father's mom lived until she was nearly 100 years old.
Now the morbid part... When you look at the period of time from when the quality of life stopped being beneficial to anyone, and the agony out-weighed the good, my mother's parents both took months to die. My father's father took nearly a year to die. My father's mother took 10 YEARS to die! And the last couple of times she was revived, she was bitter - even LIVID. She was the kindest old woman (except to gays, rabbits, and squirrels) but she was near the point of cussing-out the doctors and nurses involved with reviving her.
Why am I saying all this? Because if I could choose, I'd rather live healthy clear up to the time I die. If I have a heart-attack during an ultra - "HURRAY!" Not that I hope I die, mind you, but I don't want to cripple myself with lazy over-eating over a span of decades, and then take another decade to die. Nor do I want to live healthy - and then take 10 years to die. We all have to die. I've seen people die. Some have been violent, shocking, horrible - but quick. Some people I've heard they just died in their sleep. When I had Guillane-Barre, I was somewhat relieved that I was dieing that way. It was virtually painless. Scary as hell - yes - but I'd lived quite an exciting life-or-two and was ready as anyone could expect to be. It was quick but not too quick - you know? Say your good-byes and all. I had accute pnuemonia many years ago. Within one hour, I was laid-out on the floor unable to get up and call 9-1-1. The last I remembered was looking up towards the phone I couldn't reach thinking, "Oh well, if I wake up I lived, and if I don't I died." That, too, was a fairly quick and painless way to go, but didn't quite take-me-out. (But the rabbits and squirrels were ready to party on my grave.)
As my grandmother shows, living a healthy life doesn't guarantee a mild, convenient death.
I feel somewhat like a cat who's used up several lives already. It would be convenient to grow old with my memories, but if I don't, at least I "lived". _______________________
Just had a massage from my high preistess, Lucy, the karma doctor. The weather is unseasonably warm and another Winter storm hits tonight, but this day was the first hintings of Spring. After a massage, the Spring-like weather really made me feel fantastic.
This entire past week has been a training disaster. Too many non-training responsibilities trashed my ability to get out. But I don't regret the reasons, just the lack of mileage. This next week doesn't look one bit better, but for mostly different reasons. I'm supposed to give blood on Thursday, then run 34 miles on Saturday. So if I die of a heart-attack, just remember I died having fun. (!) Paul G and I leave Friday afternoon. We have problems with logistics, car-space, and costs. Plus neither one of our vehicles are young enough to trust whole-heartedly that they will last the entire journey, but away-we-go. We'll take my CR-V, and hopefully we can figure out how to get our bikes inside and still have room for one person to lay out sleeping. Otherwise we'll have to CONSTANTLY shuffle gear around. Right after the Moab Red Hot 50K, we'll head out for Death Valley. (If I die during the 50K, then I guess Paul will do most of the driving.) I don't know if I'll have phone reception or Internet, so my blog might not get updated for over a week. Saturday, I was supposed to have met the Denver Trail Runners for skate-skiing, but I didn't leave early enough and got there a paltry 10 minutes too late! Bummer! Instead, I went back to Winter Park and snowshoed up Corona Pass Road, not quite reaching the tressle. 17.3 miles didn't make up for the lost miles this week. This week is the lowest mileage of the entire year! I saw tons of lynx tracks! Very cool! Those buggers really float on top. Fox prints sink way in and they have lots of trouble. Even scrawny squirrels tend to sink in. Even though they don't weigh much, their feet don't spread out the weigh. Rabbits also tend to sink in. Even if a Snowshoe Hare, a rabbit's dynamics is not gentle and smooth. Lynx have very large, hairy paws. Even though some of our lynx are big, they amazingly walk on top because they step so lightly with those big paws.
Saturday, hiking with my son and friends, I took a photo of ice crystals high in the atmosphere refracting the sun. The colors were mediocre in the first shot, but when I blocked the sun with my finger, all the colors came out.
This just in... It's only a "possibility", but the annual review of permits for the SJS50 includes maybe allowing 200 runners instead of the usual 150. Being #42 on the list, I'd be an automatic "in". If that happens, I'm going to try to go early and/or stay late to help with the course. It would be great recovery to head out the day after for some trail cleanup. Actually, even if it stays at 150, the more time I spend there volunteering this year, the better I'll know the course next year.
Since about 39 people on the waiting list made it in last year, there's a possibility that nearly everyone on the waiting list will run this year. It's wait-and-see time. Don't count your chickens until they hatch.
Do you have to have a screw loose to want the "opportunity" to run 50 rugged, high-altitude miles? That's why my company name is LooseCrew Double-meaning: Several self-employed computer techs able to trade customers, but indiscernible from "loose screw" when you say it.
My father and two brothers are engineers. My initial college study was science (geology, oceanography, sociology, and physics). My hobby was designing the ultimate rally driving machine, which got me into bizarre mathematics like the Reynolds Number for wind-tunnel testing of scale models. (I tried this at home - don't.) I'm tech support for a couple of auditors. My point is, I'm no stranger to the Law of Averages.
If the military wants to add error to civilian GPS, and they decide to make all errors exactly 30 feet west and north, then it would be easy for the civilian market to simply correct by that static amount and be just as accurate as military GPS. So I'm guessing the military threw in some sort of guarantee of randomness with regard to both how far off and which direction. This was called SA (Selective Availability).
If I was a civilian entreprenuer and wanted to legally circumvent most of this error, I would take multiple simultaneous readings and average them. The faster your travel, the more problematic this would be. The computer computations would have to be fast, frequent, and complex. To shorten this blog entry, I won't go into all the conciderations. Suffice it to say that it is possible, even with SA, to average multiple readings of a slow-moving GPS unit, and end up with a probabilty-of-accuracy around 5 feet.
But that's just with the ability to average-out the government-imposed errors. You also have to consider error due to the insturment, whether it's an expensive aviation unit or a runner's GPS watch, all units and situations add error.
My only point is, that in an ideal, controlled situation, I don't see why it wouldn't be possible to calculate-out the imposed errors down very close to what the military enjoys.
While "possible", I don't know that these methods are implemented by civilian GPS manufacturers. The faster the unit samples and computes, and the more signals available, the better the posted position. Wikipedia has a great explanation of GPS error. ______________________________
Last night was a hellacious wind-storm in Denver. I was going to run 8 but instead all I did was walk to and from the grocery store. If there had been leaves on the trees, limbs would've been ripped off all over the Front-Range. If I'd gone running, it would've knocked me down every 10 minutes or so. I swear winds must've been up to 50mph. And just last week there was a lightening storm with loud cracks and booms. That's the first severe lightening I've witnessed during a snowstorm in my life. ______________________________
Tonight, I miss more running. My friend, Chris (Paperback) Reiter decided to get old on my trail-running night. Can you believe that? Why would he turn old on a Thursday? No doubt just to irritate me. So consider me irritated. But I wouldn't miss his 35th - no way! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, you frickin' geezer! I'll let you borrow some Geritol. If you run out of Depends, I got some extras.
I plotted out my data from my Timex GPS watch. I'm blown away by the accuracy. So many have tried to convince me that GPS is totally unreliable, but I took 50 readings and many were in open terrain. As far as I can tell, none of the readings were more than 3-5 feet off. I plotted them on Google Earth. There must be error in Google Earth, too. I'm no expert on their processes. I'm sure the margin of error for both GPS and Google Earth could be said to be +/- 30 feet, but usually the error is far, far less. All I know is that my waypoints that are near easily-identifiable landmarks are within a few feet. Also, I happened to write down when my GPS hit 8.70 miles. Google Earth jived exactly, even with all the bends and elevation changes.
Technology these days is astounding. And they're talking about live feeds in the next few years over metro areas. No one will be able to complain about "Big Brother" spying on them - just blame "Bob", "Stacy", or "mom". The LoJack industry is growing. People want to stick tracking devices in their cars, laptops, children, and even on themselves - so that they never get lost and can keep track of possessions and latch-key kids. _____________________________
I guess when I was post-holing in the deep snow Sunday, I must've scraped a rock or branch and it bruised the side of my heel. (It was a really jagged, rocky trail, that last mile.) It's nothing that bothers me when I run, but it hurts when anything rubs it. Considering how bad the bruise is, and how close it is to important spots, I guess I lucked-out.
When I ran Thursday, I felt sluggish. Friday, I still felt "off" and I was extremely busy, so it was easy to skip running. Saturday is a long-run day, but I still didn't feel right so I skipped running then too! I went to a very fun party Saturday evening with an eclectic mix of runners and Quakers. Sunday, I met Diane H, Chris R, and Brandy "Muffin" at Waterton Canyon. So I had some company starting out on my long run. By the time I reached mile 7, I was alone. The first and last 7 miles of my out-n-back are manicured dirt road. Then the road goes up extremely steep for a ways, then the Colorado Trail begins. I wanted it plotted out with GPS, so I had to stop about 50 times to get readings on the way out. The snow was well packed by both snowshoes and feet for most of the way, but those last couple of miles were increasingly tougher. I turned around 10 miles from my car after post-holing up to my knees in places for a mile up the jagged trail. By the time I got up there, it was a lonely place. The gully was narrow and steep and not a sound but occasional wind. Wihtout a doubt, no human had gone this far up the Colorado Trail since before the last significant snow - probably not since last year. I kept looking for lions, but to tell the truth, there was absolutely no sign of any. There were tons of doe tracks, though, new and old. With all my GPS data recorded, I shut off the data-tracking and just ran it back. Even though the "out" wasn't much of a workout with all the stopping, the "back" was work. And it's the longest I've been on my feet since the Boulder 100 last October. At 4:30pm, I imagined the Superbowl kick-off and thought, "The first kick is still hanging in the air at this moment." I still had 8 miles to go. By the time I got to the Super Bowl party, I was shaking from fatigue and lack of calories. After eating and having a beer, I was so sleepy I went home before the end of the game. I felt like a total pig - show up late, eat, leave early. But I was so sleepy I was having trouble staying awake when I was standing - and I still had to drive home. When my head hit the pillow, I was GONE!
It's strange how, in the winter, the weather in Denver is usually the opposite of the weather in the mountains. Wednesday, the it snowed like HELL near home. Thursday, running in the mountains, it hadn't snowed in a week.
I'm bummed because all my freinds are running Rocky Racoon and I'm stuck in Denver. I'm just not rich enough to run every race I'd like. I'm wasting so much money now that by the time you add up registration fees, gasoline, increased costs of eating from not having time to prepare food at home because I'm always running or travelling, the cost of running gear, and occasional motels (rare), I'm still managing to spend a couple thousand dollars a year, I'm sure. The line has to be drawn somewhere. (sigh) Woe is me. Hey, let's have a pity party! Party! Party! Who's "N"? 64 people got blown up in Iraq today. I think I'll count my blessings that I can't run Rocky, safe-and-sound as I am (hopefully). But you know - FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out - I'm an ultra runner and I want to run with my friends. And double-bummed that I'm still #42 on the SJS50 list. Looks like I'll be at an aid station. I know aid stations can be such a totally awesome time - as fun as running and best seat in the house - but I wanted to run it.
I should climb a mountain to console, but I have two parties to attend this weekend. I guess again, I should be thankful for having two parties to attend. Good luck to all my friends at Rocky. Everything we do is just training for the next thing. So here's hoping the best for this run!